May Flowers

In the midst of winter, when daylight is fleeting and nature’s attire muted, I thirst for more sunshine and color. It is almost inconceivable that the vegetation that appears lifeless will revive once more. Even though winter solstice holds the promise that daytime will lengthen and nighttime lessen, those changes are imperceptible for nearly a month. The longer days do not translate into Flora’s reawakening immediately, and despite a glimpse of some green here, or of some pink or yellow there, the lifeblood arrives only in a trickle, not a steady flow. At this point I am grateful for the precocious hyacinths and daffodils that peek their little heads above ground, even if it is still blanketed in snow.

When I blink again, it is May, and the trickle-flow has swelled to a flood. Previously leafless trees don first a gauzy veil, and next an emerald robe. Where last season’s flower stalks still stand brown and desiccated, new green shoots suddenly appear, and before I turn around, bear candles of purple, cups of orange, clusters of red.

I am not an ardent gardener, but I like to get soil under my fingernails now and again. Having inherited a patch of soil, we try to keep it up for the birds, the bees, and the butterflies. Previous caretakers left their own touches, and we encourage their legacy, while seed by seed, we add our own. Permissive gardening might be our maxim, and our lawn is the antithesis of immaculate, and our flower beds the opposite of ornamental. We stopped using herbicides a few years back, and other than the occasional digging of dandelions and pulling of other so-called weeds, anything goes.

Where the grass dies, we sow wildflower seeds. Silvery Lupines have established themselves well, similar to its neighbor, Western Blue Flax. Whoever makes its acquaintance learns to marvel at its daily pattern. Come morning, it forms a lake of blue saucers, come evening, its wiry stems are nearly bare. Repeat performance the following day. Every year, the sea of blue extends slightly more beyond the shore, and we look forward to our future backyard ocean.

Various strains of roses, peonies and irises are our only claims to respectability. The yet-to-bloom lilies might qualify as well.

California Poppies tilt their smiley faces toward the sun before wrapping themselves in a tight cone in the course of the day. Goat’s Beard (aka Yellow Salsify), a European import, follows suit, before it transforms into a blow ball reminiscent of dandelions. Johnny Jump Ups are content with their rocky residence at the south side of the house. My favorite childhood flowers, snapdragons, rear up in a variety of locations.

Among our much loved floral companions are columbines. Years ago, a handful of seeds germinated, and what started with a few isolated plants has spread like a joyful riot among the juniper, rose bushes, and cinquefoil. The Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) happens to be our state flower, and in our yard it coexists with its many variants. Whoever chose its genus name, Aquilegia, saw in its blossom an eagle’s claw (aquila is Latin for eagle); whoever named it columbine, envisioned a dove (columba is Latin for dove).

“Earth laughs in flowers,” Ralph Waldo Emerson concluded. I gratefully join in its laughter.

37 thoughts on “May Flowers

  1. Hi Tanja. You have described the wait for spring elegantly. And you have a fantastic collection there, I can almost feel the fragrance through my computer screen 😀 I love those columbines, I don’t know if I have ever seen them here.. they are really pretty, along with all other flowers!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Such a gorgeous array of flowers and your Aquilegias such a colourful flower (in comparison to the images I just posted today). It’s so long since I’ve seen a snapdragon that I’d almost forgotten what they look like. They used to be a common residential garden flower when I was young(er) 🙂

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    • Thank you, Vicki. The columbines make me smile every time I look at them. As far as the snapdragons, it is difficult to walk past them without making them open and close their “mouths’ (in German they are called lions’ mouths). Now I squeeze the flowers very gently to achieve this effect, but when I was little, I might have been less careful. We probably simply pulled off one of the blossoms. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wunderschön, liebe Tanja!
    So liebe ich Gärten, so muss es sein.
    Auch deine Worte gefallen mir wie immer sehr gut.
    Jede Jahreszeit hat ihren Reiz, aber das Frühjahr ist wirklich unübertroffen.
    Vielen Dank auch für die wunderschönen Bilder.
    Ich wünsche dir jetzt einen schönen Abend,
    hier ist es gerade Mitternacht, und ich schicke liebe Grüße,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Liebe Tanja, was für ein wunderbar bunter Garten!! Da geht mir das Herz auf! Ich liebe Lupinen. Wie traumhaft das aussieht, schwelg. Diese Vielfalt in Farbe und Form: überwältigend schön! Was sind denn Johnny Jump Ups? Sind das die Hornveilchen?? Vielen Dank für den Gartenausflug! Liebe Grüße aus dem zu heißen Mai hier, Almuth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Herzlichen Dank für Deinen netten Kommentar, liebe Almuth. Ich bin immer wieder von Neuem überrascht, was da alles so aus der Erde herauswächst. Und dabei machen wir wirklich relativ wenig.
      Die Johnny Jump Ups (Viola tricolor) sind eine Art Veilchen, laut Wörterbuch heißen sie Wilde Stiefmütterchen. Sie haben sich ihren Weg selbst hierhin gebahnt, worüber wir sehr froh sind.
      Ich wünsche Dir eine gute Woche.
      Blumige Grüße aus Colorado,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Der Name ist so lustig 🙂 Ich mag sie gerne, weil sie niedliche “Gesichter” haben. Das ist doch toll, wenn euch euer Garten überraschen kann! Dir auch eine gute Woche, liebe Tanja. Mit guten Nachtgrüßen von hier, Almuth

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  5. “Earth laughs in flowers” appears in many places on the Internet. Those are just the first four words of a sentence in the poem “Hamatreya.” Truncating the rest of the sentence greatly changes the meaning that Emerson intended:

    “Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
    Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
    Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
    Clear of the grave.”

    You can see the full poem at

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for pointing this out, Steve. I had not been aware. The quote is taken out of context not only online, but in books, on postcards, on decorative signs, etc. I guess it has taken on a life of its own.


      • You said it well: the first four words have taken on a life of their own, even to the point that few people now know the original intent. It’s common for people in our time to claim that their words have been taken out of context, even when they haven’t been, but this is a classic case where words really were taken out of context.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, Steve. One reason why I shamelessly cling to those four words alone is that they so perfectly express what I wanted to say. But I appreciate knowing Emerson’s complete poem now which is very poignant.


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